Sprucing up the old homeplace, or … How to plant a dog
A full year has passed since Ace and I — after a year on the road — called a temporary halt to our wandering ways and moved into the apartment of my birth in Winston-Salem, N.C.
During that time I’ve reclaimed my stuff, and gotten things organized to my liking, but I’ve done little to improve the outside appearances of my new abode — a one-story brick unit that looks just like all the others in the former 1950′s-era apartment complex turned condo.
Shortly after I moved in, the homeowner’s association here in what’s called College Village, began sprucing things up, landscaping the barren front of the buildings with azaleas and gardenias and the mulch of choice in these parts, pine needles.
But my front steps, especially after that, were pretty bland.
So, getting hit with an urge to build, make home a little homier, or maybe just put my mark on the place, the front stoop seemed a good place for a home improvement project — as silly as that may be to do in a rental property where, though I don’t have it entirely figured out yet, I probably won’t be staying for any great length of time.
Last week, after a good two years of avoiding Home Depot, I headed there to get what I needed for the project. I wanted to build a flower box for each side of the steps, to sit atop the brick ledges, and plant something flowery that would climb up the wrought iron rails.
Gardening, maybe, was something I missed during our year of travel, staying with friends, family, in the car, at campsites, in a boat, in a trailer and at a lot of Motel 6′s. (You can read more about those travels here, and buy the awesome commemorative Travels with Ace calendar here.) Since deciding to stay put for a bit, and moving here, all I’d done, gardening-wise, was stuff some pansies in some pots and put them on the front step’s brick ledges.
That was in honor of a pending visit from my sister and her husband. She lived here as a toddler, and had told me about how, before she had a brother to pester, she would sit on the front porch and talk to the pansies planted there, because it looked like they had faces, and she’d found they wouldn’t interrupt her.
Last week, with measurements in hand, and my son along — he’s visiting for the summer — I headed to Home Depot, determined to make not just some plain wooden flower boxes, but some that would securely fit over those brick ledges on the side, so as not to be knocked over by any big dogs, and I was intent on doing so as inexpensively as possible.
We bought some cedar fence planks, and two pine furring strips, some nails, some dirt, some white impatiens for the front of the boxes and, for the back, two clematis — clemati? — that would, according to the plan, wind their way up the black railings. Total cost: About $60.
Through a lot of trial and error, miscuts and boo-boos, we managed to put together two boxes, with slatted, recessed bottoms for drainage that perfectly fit over the ledges, with a little encouragement from a rubber mallet.
Once they were in place and secure, I realized that, in addition to being about the right size for what I was planting, they were also the perfect size for a couple of my neighbors — Frank and Bogey, both dachshunds.
So we invited Faren and her dogs over.
With the dogs in place, my modest apartment was transformed — into something close to one of those mansions that have pretentious lion statues at their entrance. Well, maybe not that close.
Bogey, that’s him on the left, was patient enough to stay in place while I took the picture. Frank, on the right, seemed mesmerized by being in the box. Frank, who has some weight issues, barely fit in, but he seemed to like that. Maybe he found it reassuring, like one of those Temple Grandin hugging machines.
He seemed willing to stay there all afternoon. Frank, we should point out, is in the midst of a weight loss regimen — and doing great. Not real active when I first met him, prone to giving up and laying down whenever his owner took him for a walk, we found that, with Ace along, he was inspired to keep up.
He has lost almost five pounds, has far more pep in his step, and almost every day, with Ace along, he’s logging a good half mile, with plans to increase that incrementally.
His brother (though not by birth) Bogey, is an active sort, prone to chasing squirrels if given the slightest opportunity. He’s much slimmer, and a bit longer than Frank. Between that and wanting to see outside, he chose to keep his front paws on the edge of the box.
Bogey’s the kind of dog that doesn’t want to miss anything.
Frank’s the sort who doesn’t want to miss dinner.
I’d probably rather step outside to see Frank and Bogey in my boxes than flowers, but that’s not practical, so I let Faren take her dogs back, explained to the two of them, and Ace, the importance of not peeing on my custom-built, cedar flower boxes, planted my flowers and took the “after” picture that’s atop this post.
In the months ahead, I expect my clematis vines — already with about a dozen blooms — to grow and climb. I expect Ace to not jump over or through my boxes in his eagerness to get outside, usually to see Frank and Bogey. I expect Frank, homebody that he is, to shrink more as our walks continue. I expect Bogey, adventurer that he is, to pick up a scent and chase something.
It occurs to me that I’m equal parts Frank and Bogey, and I think Ace is, too, and maybe we all are – part of us wanting to stay put, part of us wanting to get out of the box and explore.
But sometimes staying inside the box — as long as it’s one in which you can still grow – isn’t too bad.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 8th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, bogey, cedar, clematis, dachshunds, decorating, dog boxes, dogs, dogs in boxes, flower boxes, frank, front steps, gardening, home, home depot, home improvement, impatiens, living in the box, living outside the box, nesting, pets, project, road trip, settling down, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace